On Going Public

By now, the entire technology world knows of the truly epic fail that is / was the WeWork IPO. Naturally, the pundits, trolls, better-thans and I-Told-You-Sos are coming out swinging.

Shit, if I’m honest, I’ve talked smack about WeWork plenty of times…! Why? Because they (Adam specifically) have made it incredibly easy:

Adam Neumann has sold $700 million in stock. … This is 700 million red flags that spell words on the field of a football field at halftime: “Get me the hell out of this stock, but YOU should buy some.”

Scott Galloway

But after given it a bit of thought I think that Adam has provided a really great lesson for existing and would-be startup founders who eventually want to go “all the way” towards an Initial Public Offering — it’s that honesty and transparency is the only way to lead, manage, and operate a company.

Why? Because eventually everyone will know everything, most especially the money (and the many trails and backroads and switchbacks that money can travel at times…). The IPO Prospectus ensures that all of these details are front-and-center so that the retail customer knows what they are buying — anything other than the absolute truth is… well, fraud.

So, a couple things here:

  1. I think that it’s still very healthy to actively dream about taking your small and insignificant idea all the way to ringing the opening bell. Thinking big about not just the impact that you’ll make in the world through a well-designed and conscientious product but also how you may successfully change the course of your (and your family’s) financial trajectory is a good thing. For those who want to go IPO, go for it yo, allthethings.
  2. For those that may not necessarily be interested in the IPO-route, I still think it’s worth considering simply because optionality is leverage when it comes to decision making and, at least for me, being able to creatively think about a number of possibilities and outcomes helps me process better. But even more so it forces you to think, act, and generally behave in a manner that is aligned with honesty, transparency, and simply telling the truth. Acting as if you’re headed towards an IPO can be a simple cultural gut-check for you and the rest of your team, even if you think the chances are slim.

Thank you Adam for reminding all of us of the fact that very few secrets (if any!) will ever stay hidden forever.

Oh, and by the way… I believe that this truth applies not just to our professional lives but also our personal ones as well. Secrets are just too hard to keep… secret. Eventually, inevitably, all things will be revealed.

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